Job Quality Indicators » Job Design

<< Back to list of all indicators

Work Teams

Team work is one of the most talked-about workplace innovations of the past decade. However, teams come in many forms and often the team talk is greater than the action. To cast some light on the use of teams, we focus here on self-directed workgroups - a team in which members have a high degree of discretion and responsibility over how they produce products or services.


Working In Teams: More Common in Large Firms

Source: Statistics Canada Workplace and Employee Survey (1999) - employer survey.

While all this sounds positive, the reality is that reorganizing jobs into teams often involves difficult and complex changes in work systems. So, as the chart above indicates, barely one in every ten workplaces uses self-directed workgroups. The frequency of such groups remains low for all firms under 100 employees, increases somewhat for firms employing between 100 and 499 individuals, and jumps rather dramatically for the largest firms to over one in four workplaces.

Even though large firms tend to be more bureaucratic, counter to the logic of self-directed teams, they tend to be in a better position to implement teams in the workplace. For instance, the large number of individuals and the broad range of interdependent skills within large firms make it easier to form effective teams. Teams may also be better suited for the types of jobs that are found in large workplaces, such as complex projects or production processes. Finally, large firms may also have highly developed human resource management capacities enabling them to guide the change process that is required when teams are first introduced.


By Region

Working In Teams: Three Times More Common in the West Than in Quebec

Source: Statistics Canada Workplace and Employee Survey (1999) - employer survey.
Interestingly, the prevalence of workplaces using self-directed workgroups varies quite markedly by province. Self-directed workgroups are most common in B.C. and Alberta, with double the frequency found in the Atlantic provinces and more than triple the rate found in Quebec. An industry breakdown of the use of self-directed work teams is not possible because of the survey sample size and limited number of firms using this workplace practice.

Are employers that use self-directed teams at the leading edge of innovative workplace practices? Do these Canadian firms reap benefits from better performance from more engaged employees than their less innovative counterparts? For now, these remain important but unanswered questions. We intend to add indicators that assess the impact of teams on individuals and organizations. But in the meantime, we would like to hear from employers using self-directed work teams about what they consider to be the payoffs.

Additional Charts and Information